OK, calling it the best might be a bit of a stretch: the true merit of something as beloved and simple as chocolate ice cream comes not just from its formula, but when and where it's consumed, the quality of the ingredients, and perhaps foremost, the mood. I can't control any of those variables, but I can give you a pretty simple recipe for chocolate ice cream to get you on your merry way.
I was inspired by two things. The first was Maxwell, an ice cream purist, who came home to my Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream two weeks ago and said "blech!" This is an effort to keep the man of the house happy.
The second was Faith's post about the ice cream making technique from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams who makes ice cream without eggs. Instead, she uses a touch of cornstarch and some cream cheese to stabilize her ice creams. I adapted her method to a basic chocolate ice cream, in order to honor the chocolate. It should be the star of the show: no eggs, no vanilla, no other flavorings.
Remember, the ingredients make a world of difference. Use fresh organic milk (half and half is equal parts whole milk and heavy cream, so don't feel restricted to half and half) and as high quality chocolate as you can get. I used Scharffen Berger semi-sweet chocolate, which is 62% cacao. Anything darker than that is usually called Bittersweet. If you are using Bittersweet chocolate, increase the sugar (up to 1/2 cup). Finally, make sure your cornstarch isn't old.
With years, hopefully, of cooking ahead of me, the quest is not finished. I'm not convinced it's the best ever, but it's the best for now. And the Purist in the house? He's happy now, too.
[Some of the] Best Chocolate Ice Cream
Makes about a quart
(adapted from Jeni Britton)
8 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 1/2 cups half and half
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 ounces cream cheese, softened (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
Set up an ice bath in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the half and half with the cornstarch.
In a large saucepan, combine the remaining half and half with the sugar. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Pour just enough of the hot milk over the chopped chocolate and and cream cheese to cover it. Stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is thick and silky. Add the salt. Gradually add the remaining hot milk mixture.
Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cooled off, about 20 minutes.
Pour ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze an additional two hours (or more) in an airtight container. Will keep for about a week if sealed properly.